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Bedside Phone Holder

Bedside Phone Holder Project


In the Spring 2021 semester, I took "Introduction to Manufacturing and Tolerancing", an introductory manufacturing course that covered different manufacturing methods, metrology, and GD&T. Throughout the course I collaborated on a semester-long engineering design and manufacturing project that aimed to expand on the capabilities of a smartphone. Not only did we have to consider and apply manufacturing concepts into the project, but we also faced the unexpected challenge brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Product Design Brainstorm

The first part of the project was a rapid and collaborative brainstorming session. Over the span of a few days, I participated in both individual and group brainstorming activities. The first instance was drawing out our ideas on large whiteboards and rapidly prototyping them with common craft supplies. My group and I came up with over 20 diverse and unique ideas, ranging from hats, to robots, to beverage holders. We also had the opportunity to pitch our ideas to the instructor and our class, where we had a blast expressing our creativity and imagination for engineering design.

Whiteboard Brainstorming

Image: Whiteboard brainstorming activity, showing a sample of the many creative ideas our group came up with

Freehand Brainstorming 2

Finalizing the Product Idea

We eventually came down to three ideas, looking primarily at practicality and group interest. The first idea was a case that could hold your phone and the controller for an electric skateboard. The idea with this product was to make navigation around campus safer for people who used electric skateboards. Another idea was a visor that could holder hold your phone, allowing for hands free watching. Lastly, we pitched the an articulated bedside mount. The thinking with this product was that many students use their phone or laptop in bed, so having some articulated mount or holder would be useful for a large consumer base.


We eventually settled on the bedside phone holder. While I considered it the least innovative of the ideas, it was the most practical to design, build, and assemble given each members' skillset and capacity. 

Above: More initial sketches of product ideas, including the visor, a beverage container, and an early model of the bedside arm.

An Unexpected Challenge: COVID-19

The original plan with the project was that we were supposed to physically fabricate and make the design. Unfortunately, in early March, the COVID-19 pandemic hit the Bay Area and sent all students home to begin remote learning. Because it was not expected for students to have access to multi-million dollar maker space equipment at home, the course staff shifted the project guidelines - putting an emphasis on the CAD design and writing what methods we would have used when fabricating a prototype bedside phone holder.

This was an especially difficult challenge for me, because I did not have at the time an adequate foundation of 3D modeling and was hoping to get more involved with the actual fabrication stage. I shifted my focus on the project to focus on written and quantitative analysis. My team also choose to re-classify our idea with a focus on remote work and school.


Race to the Finish Line

Over the next few weeks, my team and I worked to finish the CAD and written deliverables in time for the Design Showcase. I primarily focused on written components of the final deliverable, which included drafting a Bill of Materials and giving reasoning for each concept, as well as preparing graphics that highlighted the individual components and the entire CAD assembly. I applied several aspects from the course, including different types of additive and subtractive manufacturing different ANSI fits and their reasoning, and considering ways the project can be upscaled and mass produced.


I also helped showcase the idea at the Spring 2020 Jacobs Design Showcase. Pitching in front of students and faculty, we highlighted the different components of the bedside holder, as well as it functionality to students and people working from home.While unfortunately the project was not nominated for any awards, the experience itself was very rewarding. 

Freehand Sketch of Holder

Above: A sketch highlighting a more detailed phone holder. This was made to highlight the different connections between individual components, which helped determine the types of fits and tolerances necessary.

Looking Back: What I Learned

This design project was both my first engineering design project and team collaboration since starting college. I thought it was really successful, especially given the challenges we had to overcome during that semester. I learned a lot about manufacturing concepts and the importance of incorporating tolerances when fabricating a part of even simply designing it in SolidWorks. 

I would, however, like to make changes if I were to do a similar project in the future. I wished I was more useful in 3D modeling at the time, as I really could not contribute to that aspect of the project. I would also like to physically make the product, as designing a SolidWorks assembly does not teach manufacturing, dimensioning, or any foundational engineering concepts that the class set out to teach. Lastly, I would have wanted to go with a more innovative and creative idea, as I am well aware that a bedside holder is not a new concept.

For a more detailed look into our product and final deliverable, please feel free to look at the slide down below.

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